The Cloisters Cross
, also referred to as the "Bury St. Edmunds Cross," is a 12th century Romanesque
altar cross decorated with ninety-two intricately carved figures and ninety-eight inscriptions. The figures, each of which is only about one-half inch tall, illustrate a number of Biblical scenes. There is some debate concerning whether or not the inscriptions are anti-Semitic in nature. Elizabeth C. Parker and Charles T. Little disagree with Thomas Hoving and think that it is doubtful that the cross, a sophisticated theological object, was specifically designed for the purpose of either castigating or converting any member of the small Jewish population in England in the mid-twelfth century. The Cross is carved from walrus ivory and measures 22 5/8 x 14 1/4 in. (57.5 x 36.2 cm).
The cross was acquired from Ante Topić Mimara by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1963 and currently is exhibited at The Cloisters.
The sculptor is not known. Thomas Hoving, who managed the acquisition of the cross while he was Associate Curator at The Cloisters, concluded that it was carved by Master Hugo at the Bury St. Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk. However, there is no certain evidence to suggest that the cross was even made in England, although this is accepted by most scholars, and other places of origin such as Germany have been proposed.
- Thomas Hoving, King of the Confessors. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York: 1981.
- Thomas Hoving, King of the Confessors: A New Appraisal. cybereditions.com. Christchurch, New Zealand: 2001.
- Elizabeth C. Parker & Charles T. Little, The Cloisters Cross. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, New York: 1994